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Volume 6 No. 215


UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations face a legal challenge in the European courts after a players' agent, Daniel Striani, "argued the rules will unfairly restrict the amount of money he can earn," according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. Striani, an agent registered in Belgium, has "lodged a formal complaint with the European commission against the rules," which require clubs in European competitions from '11 to move toward breaking even financially. Striani is represented by Jean Louis-Dupont, a lawyer who in '95 "successfully challenged football's contract rules on behalf of a Belgian player, Jean-Marc Bosman, a legal victory which allowed players to move for free at the end of their contracts." Dupont argues that UEFA's regulations, "which prevent clubs making heavy financial losses whether backed by an owner or not, will have five separate consequences he claims are anti-competitive." Dupont "will base his case for Striani on the argument that the 'break-even' rule infringes other EU fundamental freedoms:" free movement of capital (as far as club owners are concerned), free movement of workers (players) and free movement of services (players agents) (GUARDIAN, 5/6).

EXPECTING REJECTION: CNN's John Sinnott reported UEFA expects the commission "to reject the complaint given the support it has received from a number of European bodies as well as clubs" ahead of the introduction of the new regulations. UEFA said in a statement, "The European Commission, the European Parliament, the European clubs, leagues and players' union have all been fully supportive of FFP and have on many occasions commented positively on this UEFA initiative" (CNN, 5/6). REUTERS' Philip Blenkinsop reported Dupont added that "the rule restricts investment, ensures the continued dominance of the leading clubs, reduces transfer activity and is likely to lead to a cut in player wages and the income of agents." The European Commission confirmed it had received a complaint, but "declined to comment further" (REUTERS, 5/6).

Prosecutors are still pursuing the investigation into the bribery case involving F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone as the entrepreneur "prepares the sport to be sold off yet again," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Plans to find global investors to buy F1 "are going ahead under a huge cloud of lawsuits" facing the sport's CEO. Many in F1 "believed that inquiries had been dropped" after the jailing last year of German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky. But the office of Munich Chief Public Prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said that "the investigation continues almost a year after Gribkowsky was convicted." A statement said, "The investigation against Mr. Ecclestone is not yet completed." After an aborted flotation attempt last year, Ecclestone has confirmed that the private equity group "will make a second attempt this year on the Singapore Stock Exchange." The question "is whether Ecclestone remains a crucial part of the sales package." Ecclestone "will be 83 at almost the same time as Formula One is put on the market." He "will also face litigation on both sides of the Atlantic," with compensation claims outstanding worth about $1B. Ecclestone "denies any wrongdoing or undervaluing" F1 when he organized the sale of the sport to CVC seven years ago. Ecclestone is confident of seeing off the civil compensation claims, "insisting that the CVC deal was the best he could get" (LONDON TIMES, 5/6).